Why only two articles of impeachment?
It is my considered opinion that the House Democrats committed a strategic blunder in specifying only two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. The apparent justification was to present that charges in as simple a manner as possible. But simple for whom?
I would assert that – from a purely political standpoint – the focal audience for the Democrats should have been the half dozen Republican senators who may be amenable to persuasion, My reasoning begins with the observation that barring devastating revelations during the Senate trial, garnering the 67 votes required for conviction and removal from office is an illusory goal. The “theory of the second best” for the Democrats politically would then be that at least 51 senators vote for conviction on at least one article of impeachment – and not necessarily the same article. I will elaborate on its political significance.
Consider now that breakdown of the party affiliations in the Senate. The Republicans enjoy a slight numerical superiority – there are 53 Republicans compared to 45 Democrats, plus two independents who normally vote with the minority.
Consequently, if a minimum of four Republicans were to vote for conviction on at least one article, and each of the members of the Democratic/Independent coalition voted in a similar manner, then the critical number of 51 senators will have been attained. The political significance of that number is that the Democrats could legitimately claim that a majority (albeit a simple one) of senators voted for conviction. This would surely be damaging for the president’s re-election chances!
A follow-up question then arises: How likely is it that at least four Republican senators could be persuaded to vote for conviction on at leas one impeachment article? There are multiple reasons to believe that a number of Republican senators would be so inclined. At least one Republican has made known his intention to retire and surely must be concerned about tarnishing his legacy. Others are up for re-election in closely contested states where a “not guilty” vote may harm their chances. Also, some of the majority senators have independent streaks and vote as their principles dictate. In addition, some Republicans may harbor presidential aspirations and recognize that a “not guilty” vote may be inimical to those aspirations. Other republicans may cast a “guilty” vote to maintain their ethical reputations.
Let me further clarify my position that having only two articles of impeachment is detrimental to the Democrats and, by implication, advantageous to the Republicans. For the latter party, having to refute, say, a half dozen articles rather than only two is a more demanding task. Although obviously landing a “red herring” Republicans have vigorously pointed out that there are no underlying criminal offenses committed by the president in either article. This, adding more articles that involve manifest criminality or illegality would obviate the Republicans’ current argument. The majority-party senators would then be faces with dredging up other reasons to rebut those additional articles.
Applying my criteria, I now offer for consideration the following additional articles:
1. The president committed 10 acts of obstruction of justice as laid out in Robert Mueller’s investigation.
2. The president was criminally implicated (as an unindicted co-conspirator) in a 2016 campaign violation involving his then-attorney Michael Cohen and adult film star Stormy Daniels.
3. The president continued to head a fraudulent foundations while occupying the presidency. The presiding judge declaimed that the Trump Foundation displayed a “shocking pattern of illegality.”
4. The president ran a “sham” university for a time before he assumed the office. As president-elect, he was forced to pay out $25 million to settle class-action lawsuits.
Several points are in order: Forst, all four of my proposed articles involve some degree of criminality or illegality, thereby countering Republican attacks about the absence of these features in the original articles. Second, the fact that numbers 3 and 4 occurred partially or totally prior to Trump’s inauguration is made moot by virtue of the Porteous case (2010). The precedent-setting impeachment of the federal judge in this case included actions taken by him before he assumed office.
Third,, all of my suggested articles have already been fully investigated and/or adjudicated, making them readily incorporated into the impeachment process. Finally, if faced with six choices instead of only two, it would seem more likely that some Republicans may be persuaded to vote for conviction on at least one article.